We’re so used to this unusual format now in Season 9 that when a ‘special’ episode pops up - in this case a focus on Meredith and Cristina - it’s actually the norm. “Beautiful Doom” was aptly named, taking us on a journey with our twisted sisters trying to come to terms with their air crash trauma; one sister confronting the death of her real one and the other finally confronting life. This tale was grown up, superbly written and executed in such a way that the heroes shone and the ‘missing’ characters were not really missed. It was almost perfect and would have been but for annoying technical ‘special effects’ which I found completely unnecessary and annoyingly distracting.
The ensemble format of Grey’s Anatomy works well for me. I love the inter-twining of the characters and the ongoing multiple stories. It’s a hospital and hospitals bustle with constant activity so a large cast works well. But Meredith centered episodes always work too not just because she is the original key protagonist in the show but because her character has been so well developed over the show’s long life. This episode was no exception. I thoroughly enjoyed Golden Hour in season 7 and Ellen Pompeo does an equally good job here sharing the screen, literally and metaphorically with Sandra Oh.
At some point over the past few seasons Meredith found a baby sister. It only seems like yesterday when Lexie was the annoying intern trying hard to get her big sister’s attention. And then slowly but surely Meredith found her family and Lexie was an important part of it. A few short years later, a young girl gets in a crash “same injuries, same age” right in front of Meredith and she jumps on the case in cathartic closure to watching her sister die. Our super-human ‘working mother’ of a surgeon is busting her balls trying to save her ‘sister’. The patient lives but more importantly Meredith realizes how important Lexie was and still is in her life. The understated nature of the moment when Meredith opens the door to Cristina with “Lexie’s dead” was perfect. No gushing (and no repeat of the awful season finale crying), just a frank statement and realization.
Cristina finds herself confronting her own sense of morality. Only a few years ago she was flippant, raw and disrespectful to her elders. And perhaps she still is to a degree but in Dr Thomas she found a kindred spirit. She also found a lost father and a local Meredith. Cristina looked in the mirror in Minnesota and found a different version of herself staring back. She fell in love with what she saw, not romantically but compassionately. Dr Thomas was her talisman and cure. This diversion away from Seattle for five episodes has been a breath of fresh air and whilst I didn’t appreciate the Stepford-ness of the first episode I thought the tale being told was brilliant. In the end Craig Thomas drops dead doing what he loves, with his surrogate daughter as witness, proving to Cristina that she can’t run away from tragedy and trauma.
The absence of series regulars this week went largely unnoticed as screen time was devoted to the bff’s and guests. The most interesting aspect of this being the contrast between Meredith’s young puppies playing against her and the ancient cardio doc opposite Cristina. I read the usual snark on twitter criticizing the devotion of screen time to the interns and wonder why people would see this working against the regulars. By using the interns to interact with Meredith the focus remains largely on our Grey’s stalwart whilst allowing the newbies to illustrate their characters but remain in the background.
The most interesting use of characters, however, came through the exposure of Callie, Webber and Bailey. It has not gone unnoticed by me that Callie’s role in this show has grown exponentially this season. It’s not obvious because it’s done very subtly but it’s there. Callie interacts with everyone. She’s had numerous plot developments going on with most of the other regulars and we haven’t even gotten to her own main stories concerning her grief over Mark and her damaged relationship with her wife. She’s embedded in the legal dispute, she’s involved with fixing Derek’s injury, she’s drowning her sorrows with Owen, she shares guilt with Alex and now she’s helping out Meredith, providing wise words and council in the Meredith/Cristina show. Of all the actors Sara Ramirez is benefiting the most from the departure of three regulars. And as a versatile highly watchable actor this is very good news.
Bailey and Webber were the only other two characters given any air in 905, providing additional support to Meredith with Miranda delivering possibly the best lines of the show so far this season....
“Dr Grey, you know why men think they can run the world and women can’t? Because of crying babies”
“Okay, this is about world domination. If we’re going to take over we need to have our babies crying somewhere other than the ICU”
If that was the extent of the episode I would quite happily be unstoppable in showing my appreciation. But it wasn’t. In her irresistible desire to thrust the gimmick on us every season Shonda pushed just a little too far.
In film making, and television, if a character needs to narrate their life then the writing is poor. Good film makers show us what’s going on. Now, I don’t mean the usual ‘Meredith Voiceover’, which is a successful device in this show and is almost it’s own character. I mean the ‘talking to myself’ narration; Meredith willing Zola to pee and Cristina telling us she doesn’t want to get out of bed. It’s woeful writing and gimmicky.
Dear writers - Let the actors act!! It’s their job. They are very good at it. And you don’t need to hold their hand through a scene by having them dictate what’s going on in their head.
I’m quite sure it was merely intended as part of the ‘special effect’, a conscious format decision, simply because the writing of this episode was, in all other aspects, excellent. The second bad decision by the production team was installing the echo whilst on dual screen. Now, I’m a grown-up. I can tell that these two characters are in two different locations, are speaking to each other on the phone etcetera etcetera. I don’t need an annoying sound effect to help me figure it all out. Twenty Three years ago Rob Reiner managed the dual screen just fine in When Harry Met Sally without the need for echoes.
That said, I welcome the episodes where the writers challenge us and present a new view point. “Beautiful Doom” did this beautifully, but not because of gimmicks, because of wonderful well written grown up characters and awesome delivery by the actors.